As a gamer and a reviewer, I’m confused when faced with how to think about Mega Man 10.
As the gaming industry grows more mature, with decades of pedigreed history, there are an increasing stream of remakes and retro game titles that are changing the definition of a new game release.
When Mega Man 9 was released, it was an experiment by Capcom to tap a new market – gamers who want to relive older gaming eras with a modern sequel in a retro style. By all accounts it was a huge success – gamers loved the game and it sold enough to be deemed a financial success. In so many ways, Mega Man 9 went against the conventional wisdom of graphical and gameplay progression as the defining characteristics of a modern gaming experience. For many of the gamers who loved Mega Man 9, it brought them back to another gaming era from decades before. It was a fresh concept that focused on a nostalgic target gamer
But then what is Mega Man 10?
In many ways, a review is an answer to a game player’s questions about the game. For Mega Man 9, the question was “How can Capcom recreate an 8-bit experience on a modern console?” and the reviews generally addressed that question. But that’s not the question anymore. As a sequel, Mega Man 10 brings up a new slate of questions and potential comparisons. It shouldn’t get a pass in every conceivable reviewing category – from graphics to story to sound to originality – just because Capcom’s target is 8-bit nostalgia.
By adding another game in the series, the implicit implication is that there is something new to offer to the series. Mega Man 9‘s contribution was stripping down the series to its core. Is Mega Man 10 supposed to rebuild new gameplay on top? Continue the same style? If Mega Man 9 was praised for de-volving the series, shouldn’t Mega Man 10 be criticized for stagnating it?
In both the IGN Review as well as the 1up Review, Mega Man 10 is graded entirely against Mega Man 9, with slight references to the first six games that appeared on the NES. Without a baseline against which to compare, Mega Man 9 was able to slip by with no innovation or evolution. For Mega Man 10, now that the novelty is gone – what are the grading standards? How do the graphics get evaluated? And the gameplay? Does Mega Man 10 exist in a vacuum by which comparisons to any other game are invalid?
As a one-time anomaly, it was easy to heap praise upon Mega Man 9 for its originality as a concept. There were few (if any) major attempts to create a faux 8-bit era sequel to a diehard-focused franchise. But in the months since its release, there are suddenly plenty of other like-minded games. If Mega Man 9 was incomparable to any other game then its reviews were easy to ad lib, making up the rules by which it’s graded along the way. But for Mega Man 10, there are many games that are attempting the same or similar reactions for gamers.
What about New Super Mario Bros. Wii – both are 2d sequels to franchises that began on the NES. Both series progressed with newer gameplay styles and graphical upgrades. Nintendo chose to use updated – but still not ultra modern – graphics and added gameplay modes. Earlier this year, Capcom’s own Dark Void Zero on Nintendo DSiWare, another faux NES-era title went as far as to have a digital NES cartridge that needed to be blown on to play the game. The graphics and gameplay are made in the style of an NES game, but there is no direct prequel with which to compare it. Should the Mega Man 10 reviews be comparing only faux NES-level games against one another? Even the new Matt Hazard game download was an attempt at recreating a retro game experience. Later this year, there will be new 2d-based sequels for Sonic, Bonk, and even Sparkster.
A new game release is reviewed with the knowledge and baggage of all games released before it – the graphics, gameplay, story and originality are compared against games on the same system, games in the franchise, games in the same genre. A game released in 2010 has greater technical capabilities than one in 1990. Today’s games benefit by mistakes made along the way as developers make new and better games.
Retro games are all part of a burgeoning subgenre of games specifically intended to inspire nostalgia as a main or driving factor for wanting to play the game. To fully enjoy the game, as intended by the developer, history is factored into the evaluation process in a different way. While next-gen 3D games are being graded for their ability to push limits, retro games are graded on execution. Rather than existing in the stream of releases each year that define a console generation, retro games are graded against themselves, evaluated by a unique set of standards that change with every game, every reviewer. I’m not sure this is sustainable – these games will naturally begin to be compared with one another as the market crowds up. The onus is on game reviewers to better define expectations for retro games and successfully communicate that to players.
As for me, I’m still hoping to get a Mega Man Powered-Up 2
Jonathan Widro is the publisher of Diehard GAMEFAN and owner/CEO of the Inside Pulse Network. He has worked as a writer and publisher for over a decade, after working in game-related retail for over five years. He has worked in game development, most notably creating user-generated gaming portal Fyrebug and over 100 Flash games. Gaming Under Construction, Jonathan’s perspective on the gaming industry, is published every Wednesday on Diehard GAMEFAN.